Dad of Divas' Reviews: Book Review - The Dog Who Healed A Family!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Book Review - The Dog Who Healed A Family!

Millions cherish their pets, but for the favored few, rare encounters with extraordinary animals can change their lives. In THE DOG WHO HEALED A FAMILY (Harlequin Nonfiction; August 2010; $12.95 U.S./$15.95 CAN, Trade Paperback Original), veteran animal writer Jo Coudert gathers eighteen endearing, hilarious and inspiring stories of special animal and human relationships that have pushed the boundaries of care and nurturing, and led to extraordinary bonds of love. A frequent contributor to such national periodicals as Reader’s DigestWoman’s Day,Coudert has unearthed these heartfelt stories that span the country as they track the adventures and misadventures of a variety of domesticated and wild animals and their often unusual human encounters.

Not-so-ordinary household pets take center stage in many of Coudert’s stories. A German shepherd adopted by a teenager with terminal cancer outlives the boy and becomes the “Good Shepherd” for untold other children suffering with chronic and life-threatening diseases. Another shepherd travels the world as a rescue dog, lending its keenly trained senses to search for survivors of earthquakes and other natural disasters. One aging dog was so beloved by its relocated family that a “puppy express,” modeled on the old Pony Express, was organized to reunite them. The dog in the title story managed to pull off what mere mortals could not—helping three damaged, emotionally wary children come to accept that their adopted family meant only unconditional love.

Coudert tells of a remarkable miniature pig whose gregariousness and intelligence helped its owner conquer agoraphobia. A rabbit named Elizabeth encourages another young woman, living in the impersonal city, to come out of her shell. A fawn, rescued from the side of its dead mother, grows into a companionable buck who becomes the mascot of a home for the mentally ill. Overcoming her aversion to snakes, a nun takes part in a St. Patrick’s Day snake race to win some much-needed cash for her order, while a dedicated man fashions shoe prosthetics for a duck born without feet.

The bonds of affection and the special symbiotic relationship between humans and animals is underscored in many of the stories in THE DOG WHO HEALED A FAMILY. A talkative African gray parrot named Casey mimics its beloved owner—when not sulking about being left home alone. A baby swan becomes imprinted on a human couple, living in their home as if it were a more conventional pet. A Texas couple is heartbroken when an abandoned javelina baby they raise as part of the family is seized by the Parks and Wildlife Department and hastily released into the wild—sparking an outraged media campaign to “Bring Bubba Back.”

Central to all the remarkable and entertaining stories that Coudert recreates is the power of love. “Why do people become devoted to an animal, sometimes with an intensity that is startling?” she asks. “Pure love is rare among humans… But that’s not a problem with an animal. It doesn’t feel the least bit threatening to be boundlessly loved by a dog or cat, and the dog or cat is more than content to be boundlessly loved in return.” For many humans, as exemplified so often in these stories, a relationship with an animal is fundamental. “Animals put us in touch with the basics, with the natural world, which has little to do with get, spend, consume, throw away,” Coudert writes. “They are a bridge to the natural world.” Charming, moving and engaging, THE DOG WHO HEALED A FAMILY reminds us of the tangible difference animals can make in our lives.

About the Author
Jo Coudert’s original intent was to be a playwright, and fresh out of college (Smith), she immersed herself in the world of the Broadway theater, attending plays and workshops several nights a week while working during the day as an editor of psychiatric textbooks and managing editor of the International Journal of Group Psychotherapy. Her plays earned her membership in the New Dramatists Committee, where one of her fellow playwrights was Sol Stein. Sol was starting his own publishing company and was looking for book ideas. Jo suggested a cookbook for people like a recently divorced friend who now had to get his own meals but knew nothing about cooking. Sol liked the idea, offered her a contract, and Jo wrote The I Never Cooked Before Cookbook.

This did so well in both hardcover and paperback that Sol wanted another book. Knowing of Jo’s background in psychology, he suggested it be a self-help book for highly intelligent people. When Jo protested that she didn’t have the credentials to validate her as the author of such a book, Sol suggested that it be called Advice from a Failure. This book proved an immediate bestseller and has remained in print to this day. Two more books followed: The Alcoholic in Your Life and GoWell: The Story of a House.
Her love of playwriting had never faded, and Jo now followed the books with four plays, all of them produced Off-Broadway. About this time, two large white ducks decided to take up residence at her weekend house and were so amusing that she wrote a piece about them for Reader’s Digest. The Digest asked for more such stories and soon she was writing steadily for them and for Woman’s Day, of which she became a Contributing Editor.

One of the pieces for the Digest was about a remarkable black family of five daughters whose father set out to make doctors of them. For several years after the story appeared, one of the daughters, Yvonne Thornton, M.D., whose physician husband was a great fan of Advice from a Failure, urged Jo to write a book about the family. Finally she agreed after tapes of the father came to light. This appeared as The Ditchdigger’s Daughters. The Digest ran the story for a second time, this time as a condensed book, McCall’s printed an excerpt, and the Family Channel adapted it as a movie. This book, too, has never gone out of print.
Jo and Dr. Thornton did another book together, Woman to Woman, about Dr. Thornton’s specialty of obstetrics and gynecology, and Jo went on to write a book about a remarkable therapy dog, The Good Shepherd. When Warner Books inquired if she would be interested in writing about cats, Jo obliged by writing and illustrating Seven Cats and the Art of Living, a book combining her affection for cats and her lasting interest in human behavior. A curious footnote to the Chinese edition was that the illustrations were redrawn to make the cats look "more Chinese."

Now, once again Jo has turned back to the theater—not a play this time but a novel. It is the backstage story of the production of a Broadway musical, and it is called Daisy, Daisy! Published in 2009, it is being followed in 2010 by The Dog Who Healed a Family, a collection of true stories about animals that Harlequin will bring out in August. In the works are another nonfiction book and a second novel.
Through the years Jo has been a collector of quotations and observations that have struck her as insightful and interesting, and often she has added her own take on whatever subject they deal with. Recently she has begun putting one a day of these quotations on a free website for anyone interested.

My Take on the Book
This book is a perfect one for any animal lover! Filled with endearing stories of pets and their owners, you will not want to put this book down. I loved reading about some of the stories that were listed above and made myself think back to pets that I have had in the past. 

The author does a great job at connecting with the reader themselves and draws them into the story. Once connected, she continues to weave her web and brings the reader on a continued ride through stories that will definitely touch your heart and make you want to consider your own relationships that you currently have or have had in the past with your pets!

If this book sounds like one you would like in your own collection, you can find it on Amazon!

All opinions expressed in this review are my own and not influenced in any way by the company.  Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Please refer to this site's Terms of Use  for more information. I have been compensated or given a product free of charge, but that does not impact my views or opinions.
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